"Top Chef" fan fave's Italian fare on a budget

Chef Fabio Viviani on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" on Aug. 20, 2011

Fabio Viviani is owner and executive chef at two great resaurants in Los Angeles and author of some best-selling cookbooks.

His eateries are Cafe Firenze and Firenze Osteria.

But you may remember him as a fan favorite from season five of Bravo's "Top Chef."

Fabio brought his culinary flair to "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," accepting our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge of trying to make a three-course dinner for four on our slim budget of $40.

He chose to whip up a festive meal consisting of a cheese souffle, followed by New York steak with pomegranate and arugula and, for dessert -- chocolate bacon muffins!

Our "Shoestring" chefs are automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the one with the lowest ingredients cost is invited back to cook the feast for our year-end extravaganza.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!


Italian Cheese Souffle

Serves 4


  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 1/2 cup of Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese


1. Mix all the ingredient in a blender over medium speed

2. Pour into cup baking Dish greased or not depend if the dish are non stick

3. Cook at 425 degrees F for about 25-35 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry

New York Steak with, Pomegranate & Arugula salad with Garbanzo beans

Serves 4


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 NY steak (about 4 ounces each)
  • 1 pound canned garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup of shaved parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with Salt and Pepper and cook the steak as you desire.

2. Set the steak aside and in the same oil cook the shallots till golden brown, let cool down

3. In a large bowl, combine Garbanzo beans, pomegranate seeds (optional), green onion, shallots, lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper. Fold in the arugula. Serve with the steak.

4. Topped with Shaved Parmesan

Rich Bacon Chocolate Muffins

Serves 18 (can cut recipe in half)


  • 1 pound bacon crispy (ground in a food processor or finely chopped)
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter
  • 1 pound all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 12 large eggs, cracked into a bowl


1. In a saucepan, melt the 2 types of chocolate with the butter over medium to low heat

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar with the bacon

3. Whisk the eggs into the dry-ingredients

4. Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and stir until well blended

5. Refrigerate for 2 hours

6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F

7. Scoop about 1/2 cup batter into each muffin tin or till the tins are full

8. Bake for about 30 minutes

So, how did Fabio do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

His grand total of $36.22 was good enough to land him in the No. 2 spot on our Leaders Board for the year-to-date!:

1.Floyd Cardoz $33.54

North End Grill

2.Fabio Vivani $36.22

Café Firenze

3. Marco Canora $36.33